Seven journalists were targeted by a mob at an event called the “Hindu mahapanchayat” in Delhi’s Burari area on Sunday. Five of them had to be taken away by police to protect them from the mob.
Four of the five journalists who were escorted away by the police were Muslims and were targeted allegedly after being asked their religious identity.
Meer Faisal of The Hindustan Gazette, photojournalist Md Meharban, and Newslaundry journalists, Shivangi Saxena and Ronak Bhat, were assaulted at the event. Arbab Ali, who was covering the event for Article 14, Meghnad Bose, a reporter at The Quint and another journalist who did not wish to be identified, were verbally abused.
In a series of tweets, Ali said he and Faisal were interviewing people at the event when they were attacked.
He added that Hindutva supremacists Yati Narsinghanand and Suresh Chavhanke – who have earlier made hate speeches against Muslims – were among those who attended the event. Those who attended Sunday’s event were also making communal speeches, Ali said in his tweet.
“Suddenly, a group of right-wingers came to us and snatched our cameras and phones,” Ali said in a tweet. “They asked us our names. When Meer and I told them our name, they called us jihadi.”
Ali alleged that Faisal and he were made to sit separately and delete the videos they had shot at the event. Faisal was allegedly hit on his head and Ali pushed around.
“The mob started saying that ‘we should be beaten for this” as if covering the event was a crime and being Muslim is a crime,” Ali wrote in a tweet.
Even as police tried to take Ali and Faisal away, the mob tried to stop them. Later, some police personnel in plain clothes pushed them inside a van. One of the Hindutva group members even entered the van and punched a policeman.
Ali, Faisal, Bose, Meherban and the journalist who did not want to be identified, were then taken away in the police van to the Mukherjee Nagar Police station, as people in the mob allegedly called others to follow them.
The journalists were made to sit at the police station for an hour before being escorted to their homes, Ali said in his tweets.
Faisal confirmed to the Scroll.in that he and Meherban had been beaten up. The police at the Mukherjee Nagar police station took their statement on the matter. “Police are behaving well...Nothing problematic about them,” he told Scroll.in.
The Deputy Commissioner (North West) of Delhi Police said in a tweet that the journalists sat in a police van to “evade a crowd which was getting agitated by their presence”. She clarified that none of them had been detained and they “opted to proceed to police station” due to security reasons.
Police complaint filed
In a complaint filed by Newslaundry’s Saxena, the journalist alleged that she and her colleague Bhat were being followed by unidentified men since they reached the venue of the event on Sunday morning.
She added that one of the organisers, Preet Singh, called out her name from the stage and identified Saxena as the journalist whose report was used as video evidence to put him in jail in August. Singh was one of the men arrested for chanting hateful slogans against Muslims at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in August.
Saxena added in her complaint that she and Bhat went towards the exit gate of the event at 1.30 pm after they got to know that some journalists were being “detained”.
“As soon as we rushed to the spot...Raunak was manhandled and assaulted by 15-20 men,” Saxena said in her complaint. “His press ID was snatched from him. I was recording the incident while doing that, I was pulled back and groped by unknown men who tried to snatch my mobile.”
Saxena said that she has video evidence of the incident and will be able to identify two or three of the men who were part of the mob.
Others corroborate the allegations
Samar Halarnkar, the founder-editor of Article 14 wrote in a tweet that one of the journalists who were taken away by the police was reporting on the event for the news website.
Faisal also confirmed that he and Meherbaan were beaten up by the mob due to their Muslim identity.
Newslaundry also said in a tweet that Saxena and Bhat were “manhandled and assaulted” at the event.
In videos of the event, Narsinghanand and Chavhanke could be seen making inflammatory speeches targeting Muslims.
“For once if a Muslim becomes the prime minister of India, 50% of you will have to convert,” Narsinghanand could be heard saying in one of the videos. “In 20 years, 40% Hindus will be killed...If you want to secure your future, then be a man...And who is a man? One who holds weapons is a man.”
In another video, Chavhanke says: “Our future generations will say that our ancestors kept calling for equal rights...Hindus are the only community which speaks of equality despite being the majority. This is due to our good nature...But is someone mistakes this as our cowardice, we should give up this up.”
Both Narsinghanand and Chavhanke were in the news in December after videos of them making inflammatory speeches were widely shared on social media.
Addressing an event of Hindutva group Hindu Yuva Vahini in Delhi on December 19 Suresh Chavhanke, the editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News, could be seen administering an oath to a group of people to “die for and kill” to make India a “Hindu rashtra” or a Hindu nation.
At a separate event held in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar city between December 17 and December 19, several seers also openly called for genocide against Muslims and asked Hindus to buy weapons
Narsinghanand had said: “Economic boycott [against Muslims] will not work...No community can survive without picking up weapons...And swords won’t work, they look good only on stages. You need to update your weapons...More and more offsprings and better weapons, only they can protect you.”
He was arrested by Uttarakhand Police on January 15 for his remarks against women. Later, hate he was booked for making hate speech at the Uttarakhand event as well. But, he was released on bail in February.